Here’s a Trade that could Happ(en)

Photo: Chicago Tribune

Chicago Cubs utility hitter Ian Happ, now 24 years old, opened the 2018 campaign on a high note, slugging a HR on the 1st pitch he saw (the 1st pitch of the 2018 season). This year has been the reverse dynamic, as Happ has opened the 2019 campaign with the Iowa Cubs (AAA-affiliate)…

We just want to make sure he gets down there and gets a lot of consistent at-bats, especially from the left side,” Maddon said. “Obviously, we consider him a huge part of our future, but just based on the conclusion of last year and what we’re seeing at this point this year, we think it’s really important that that would happen that way.”
Maddon said that Happ took the news hard.

“He’s not happy and he shouldn’t be happy,” he said. “He was surprised. I really don’t blame him.”

 Tony Crumpton of CubsHQ

It’s worth noting that Happ, rightfully surprised (.353 OBP, 1.5 WAR [per FanGraphs], and 15 HR in 462 PAs last year), has struggled mightily since the all-star break…

2018 (3/29 – 7/14)

PA: 280

HR: 11

RBI: 26

2B: 11

AVG: .256

OBP: .379

2018 (7/19 – 10/1)

PA: 182

HR: 4

RBI: 18

2B: 8

AVG: .196

OBP: .313

Happ also had a rough Spring camp, hitting to the tune of a sub-.200 AVG and striking out a whopping fourteen times. There’s no denying the fact that strikeouts are by far his most problematic issue. In 2018, Happ struck out over 36% of the time, which was the 3rd highest rate among hitters with at least 400 PAs (only Chris Davis and Mike Zunino whiffed more often).

So far in 2019, Happ has performed poorly in AAA. Here are his stats through 21 games…

PA: 89

HR: 2

RBI: 13

2B: 7

AVG: .218

OBP: .315

What Happ needs most is a change of scenery, and that’s where the San Francisco Giants come in.

The Giants are inquiring around the league about possible outfield trade targets, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). It does not appear as if they have locked in on a particular player to this point, with the report specifying that they’re in talks with “multiple clubs.”

It’s still early, but the San Francisco organization has received little in the way of offensive production from its outfield unit. Most of the playing time has gone to youngster Steven Duggar (71 OPS+) and veterans Gerardo Parra (56) and Kevin Pillar (86).

 Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors

The Cubs bullpen has been just mediocre this season. They have put up 0.1 WAR as a unit, which is tied for the 19th highest total in the majors (as found on FanGraphs). Their current closer is Pedro Strop, who has a 3.52 ERA and three saves in four opportunities.

SF Giants closer, Will Smith, had an ERA in the low ones up until today / 4.28.19 (his ERA has now risen to 3.72). Last year, Smith’s 2.0 fWAR ranked as the 8th highest measure in the majors among relievers. He would have been the most valuable reliever on the Cubs by 0.8 WAR despite only appearing in 54 games (came back from TJ surgery and rehab and returned to major league action in May). His ERA on the year was 2.55.

Smith, who is 29 years old and is due to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season, is being payed $4.225 million (per Spotrac) this season (a very reasonable cost).

In trading Ian Happ to the Giants in return for Will Smith, the Cubs would be parting with an expendable piece in order to bolster the back end of their bullpen and add another left-handed reliever into the mix (comes in handy, especially in the playoffs!).

The Giants could play Happ all around the diamond. He could assume Joe Panik’s duties at 2B if/when the Giants trade impending FA Joe Panik prior to the deadline. Here’s Happ’s innings by position…

OF: 1334

3B: 130

SS: 263

This is a trade that seemingly makes sense for both sides and it could very well happen sooner rather than later.

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